Today, Manager Halilhodžić announced his 26-man roster for Japan’s upcoming matches against Iraq (home) and Australia (away).
Shusaku Nishikawa (Urawa Reds)
Masaaki Higashiguchi (Gamba Osaka)
Eiji Kawashima (FC Metz)
Hiroki Sakai (Marseille)
Gotoku Sakai (Hamburger SV)
Yuto Nagatomo (Inter)
Kosuke Ota (Vitesse)
Maya Yoshida (Southampton)
Tomoaki Makino (Urawa Reds)
Masato Morishige (FC Tokyo)
Yuichi Maruyama (FC Tokyo)
Naomichi Ueda (Kashima Antlers)
Makoto Hasebe (Frankfurt)
Hotaru Yamaguchi (Cerezo Osaka)
Yosuke Kashiwagi (Urawa Reds)
Shinji Kagawa (Dortmund)
Hiroshi Kiyotake (Sevilla)
Ryota Nagaki (Kashima Antlers)
Ryota Oshima (Kawasaki Frontale)
Keisuke Honda (Milan)
Yu Kobayashi (Kawasaki Frontale)
Takashi Usami (FC Augsburg)
Genki Haraguchi (Hertha Berlin)
Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City)
Yoshinori Muto (Mainz)
Takuma Asano (Stuttgart, on loan from Arsenal)
Key players not making an impact
One huge problem facing the national team is the fact that a number of key players do not play regularly for their club teams. Namely, Shinji Kagawa, Hiroshi Kiyotake, Shinji Okazaki, and Keisuke Honda. These players are the four attackers which spearhead Japan’s attack, and in the previous WC Qualifiers, it was apparent that lack of playing time is affecting these players’, except Kiyotake, ability to make an impact on the game.
Manager Halilhodžić mentioned at a press conference that he called up Kawashima to give the team a mental toughness which it had lacked in the previous matches, especially because Japan will be going away to play Australia. However, Manager Halilhodžić also said that Kawashima would not see playing time. That is understandable because Kawashima has been riding the bench at FC Metz. Kawashima does give the team a mental edge because of his experience, but does that itself warrant a place on the national team? I say it does not.
Ryota Oshima gets called up again even though he was underwhelming against the UAE. Takuma Asano, a favorite of Manager Halilhodžić, gets called up. One ‘surprise’ call-up is Ryota Nagaki. Currently playing for Kashima Antlers, Nagaki has been playing regularly recently. He is a box-to-box midfielder who has good short passing accuracy.
Is this team capable of winning both matches?
In my honest opinion, they will struggle against both Iraq and Australia; so I am skeptical about Japan coming out on top of both matches. The hole in the center midfielder position is still there even though Makoto Hasebe, Hotaru Yamaguchi, Yosuke Kashiwagi, Ryota Oshima, can play there. Ryota Nagaki. Realistically, Hasebe and Yamaguchi will start unless there is an injury.
The problem at the striker position is not solved also because it seems Manager Halilhodžić is not keen on starting Yoshinori Muto even though he has been scoring goals for his club. Manager Halilhodžić said that because of a club rule which states players must be called up 2 weeks in advance, striker Yuya Osako could not be added to the squad. Mike Havenaar has not even been mentioned.
As I said in a previous post, I will write short articles about Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda, Hiroshi Kiyotake, and Mike Havenaar. However, I might write about these players and other players by categorizing them by position.